Thursday, May 19, 2011

gathering in the name of....

A 42-year-old Texas mother was arrested Wednesday in connection with the murder of her six-year-old son whose body was discovered last Saturday along a dirt road in Maine. For several days, authorities were frustrated as they tried to identify the body: No one came forward, no one had reported him missing, there was no hue and cry for Camden ... for several days he was simply a kid dumped by the side of the road, nameless.

But in Maine, before Camden's identity surfaced, there was a candlelight vigil Tuesday for this nameless child, and several crosses, flowers and candles marked the spot where the body was found.

"The whole community has come together and has feelings for this boy, who nobody seems to know who he is," Laurie Ralph said Wednesday as she and her husband visited the site. "You hear of missing children all the time, but when it happens in your hometown - and on your own street - it's scarier."
Perhaps it was media interest and ballyhoo that inspired such mourning, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were something more as well. Somehow, it is off the human charts that a child's death should inspire no notice, no caring, no grief ... and no name. There is something visceral in it -- beyond grief, beyond religion, beyond fear: Somehow, this death is mine and it calls out.

The activist mind may speak up boldly and say things like, "Why do you mourn this one unknown and pass blithely by where so many other deaths go unnoticed?" But I think this is just another way of skirting the issue, this very particular and present situation...this situation which asserts what feel-gooders may call "connection" and yet really is connection.

We gather in the name of what cannot be named. We gather because we are human. We gather for reasons that cannot be named and meanings that cannot be found. We gather because it is who we are and yet who we are remains as nameless as Camden. We heap up names and meanings and explanations and when we get exhausted enough with our names and meanings and explanations, we set it aside, forget about it, and move on. It's the best we can manage and yet somehow it falls short of the meaning we know for a certainty. We know and yet what we know cannot be known.

It is worth noticing, I'd say -- honoring the unknown with our caring attention.

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